Francis Xavier, a Biography

Francis Xavier (1506-1552) was a Jesuit missionary who lived in India, Indonesia and Japan. He is considered one of the greatest missionaries in Christian history. He is famous for saying, “Tell the students to give up their smaller ambitions and go east to preach the gospel.” Xavier rhymes is pronounced “Havier” with the accent on the last syllable. “It means nothing more romantic than New House, like Casanova in Italian or Maisonneuve in French.”[1]

Francis Xavier was from the Basque region of Spain. “The Basque language is no longer spoken in the part of Navarre where he was born,” writes Brodrick. “But he used it during his home-keeping years and babbled in it when dying off the coast of China.[2]

After Xavier set off for the University of Paris in 1525 “there is no evidence that he ever saw Xavier or his family again.”[3] One solitary letter from him to a member of his immediate family has been preserved to the present day. However, “it is written in a style so coldly courteous and ceremonious that it might have been addressed to a perfect stranger rather than to his blood brother. The people of his country never did wear their hearts on their sleeves, but we could wish for an occasional flash of family affection in one of them who was most prodigal of love for all mankind.”[4]

Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, was also Basque. Loyola narrates the bombardment of Pamplona, which he and others were defending from the French on April 20, 1521. Loyola wrote in the third person: “After the bombardment had lasted a good while, he was struck on one of his legs by a cannon ball which smashed it completely and badly damaged the other leg also.” In the surgery that followed “he never uttered a word nor showed any other sign of suffering, except by tightly clenching his fists.”[5]

After his conversion, Ignatius Loyola make a sacred pledge with the other six Catholic men who founded the Society of Jesus. Brodrick writes:

It was the simplest of ceremonies, unwitnessed by anybody except the seven, and even they, at the time, had not remotest idea that they were making history. An isolated chapel on the slopes of Montmarte was later erected on the spot. A tablet asserts the claim of that the order began here.[6]

“They were filled with an ardent and eager longing to bring the light of the Gospel to the heathen, and resolved, if need be, to sacrifice their very lives for any cause redounding to the greater worship and reverence of God . . . They were prepared to preach the Gospel anywhere in the world at the Pope’s discretion, including the lands of the Turks and other non-Christian tyrants.”[7] One night Francis Xavier dreamed that he had abducted a small Turk and baptized him.[8]

On the 14th of March 1540, Ignatius, who had been elected by the other six to direct the work of the Jesuits, make the momentous decision to send Francis Xavier eastward to preach the gospel. “Francis,” said Loyola, “You know that by order of His holiness two of us have to go to India, and that we chose Bobadilla as one of the two. He cannot go now owing to his illness, nor can the Ambassador delay until he gets better. This is your enterprise.” Such was the unemotional scene, a truly Basque picture, etched in the heart’s blood of two fasts friends who were to part forever on the morrow. Loyola goes on to relate the reaction of Francis, who is said to have replied with great joy, “Pues, sus! Héme aqui” (“Surely! Right away! Here I am.”), and there and then set to work patching an old pair of trousers.[9]

Xavier appalled by the Christian slaughter of Muslim civilians in India, perpetrated by Christians. He wrote, “But what is this? What excuse can be fabricated to condone such cruelty?” Quoting Camoens, nicknamed Albuquerque, the conqueror of Goa, in a letter to King Manuel of Portugal:

In the capture of Goa our Lord did much for us . . . Afterwards, I burnt the city and put all to the sword. For four consecutive days your soldiers slaughtered the Moors, not sparing a single one. They herded them into mosques and then set those buildings on fire. We reckoned that six thousand Moors had been slain. Sir, it was a great deed, well fought and well finished, the first time that vengeance had been taken in India for the treacheries and villanies perpetrated by the Moors against your Highness and your people. I am not leaving a single Moorish tomb or building standing, and the Moors captured I have caused to be burned alive . . . I am giving the property and lands of the Great Mosque as an endowment or the church in honour of St. Catherine which I am building, for it was on her day (November 25) and on account of her merits that our Lord gave us the victory.”[10]

Albuquerque also conquered the island state of Ormuz, guaranteeing the future safety of Portuguese sailing ships to India, and the island of Malacca. “This would be Francis Xavier’s gateway to the Indonesia islands and Japan. No Albuquerque, no Xavier, is a fair conclusion.”[11] The Catholic Church would later recognize Francis Xavier to be a saint; it should have condemned Albuquerque as a mass murderer and a traitor to the faith, the Vladimir Putin of his era.

[1] James Brodrick, Saint Francis Xavier, 1506-1552 (New York,: Wicklow Press, 1952). 13

[2] Ibid. 15

[3] Ibid. 27

[4] Ibid. 22

[5] Ibid. 24

[6] Ibid. 47 Brodrick’s footnote: “The location is traditionally believed to mark the place of martyrdom of Saint Denis, first bishop of Paris, and his companions. However, there is not real proof that Saint Denis was martyred there. The Saint Denis of Roman liturgy is a composite of Dionysius the Areopagite, Dionysius of France, about whom hardly anything is known, and pseudo-Dionysius, the fifth century mystical writer.”

[7] Ibid. 46-47

[8] Ibid. 46

[9] Ibid. 78

[10] Ibid. 101

[11] Ibid. 116

[12] Ibid. 21